March for Babies

I just got out of the NBC news studio.

I was interviewed on LIVE TV for the mid-day news.

And it had nothing to do with Bright Line Eating™.

In fact, it had nothing to do with me at all.

The subject of interest was the kiddo on my lap.

And the kiddo to my right, who was sitting on my husband’s lap.

We were on TV as the Ambassador Family for this year’s March for Babies, the big March of Dimes fundraising walk.

There are plenty of important causes in the world, but the ones with the most pull are always the ones that touch you personally.

Sometimes that personal touch is strong enough to evoke a feeling in your body.

I was reminded of that feeling right before we went to the news studio.

I had to take Zoe to Strong Hospital for a routine blood draw.

Strong hospital is where she and her twin sister Alexis were born, nearly seven years ago.

When I walk into that hospital I get this feeling in my body.

My legs want to cave.

I feel nauseous.

My head feels tumbly and it becomes hard to walk a straight line.

My body remembers the months I spent there, lugging up to the third-floor Neonatal Intensive Care Unit every day to see my newborn babies wired up in plastic boxes.

My body remembers how it felt then.

Classical conditioning brings it back.

The feeling is strongest, by far, when I emerge from the elevator on the Third Floor Labor and Delivery Unit and my eyes are assaulted by the brown applique wood floors, so unusually and gorgeously crafted that they would make anyone feel warm and at home.

Anyone except me.

Alexis and Zoe were miracle babies right from the start.

They were my first pregnancy.

I was infertile.

We did fertility treatments over and over again.

And over.

And over.

And over again.

Then I was pregnant.

And we found out it was twins!

We were sure it was two boys.

Alexander and Zachary.

Our little family was complete from A to Z.

But at the 16-week ultrasound we didn’t see two little pistols, but two sets of parallel lines.

We were stunned into silence for the rest of the day.

Alexis and Zoe.

I ate impeccably, of course.

In fact, I stumbled upon some research showing strong correlations between early weight gain and full-term pregnancies for multiple births.

So I ate six meals a day.

Big, Bright Line meals, with no sugar and no flour.

And I made sure that my weight gain was hearty and tracked the ideal trajectory to minimize risk of prematurity.

I educated myself to the hilt and followed every best-practice.

The pregnancy was wonderful.

Until it wasn’t.

On April 25th, 2008, I went into labor.

With no warning, and for no reason.

I was 23 weeks pregnant.

Full-term is 40 weeks. I wasn’t due until August 16th.

I went into labor, and I didn’t even know it.

I was at the movies with David.

It was a Friday night.

The movie was awful. It starred Matt Damon, but that couldn’t salvage it.

The twins were especially active that night. They were tumbling around in there.

Flipping over.

And over.

And over.

As the credits rolled it occurred to me that I had felt that awful somersault every eight minutes for the past two hours.

The rhythmicity rang an alarm bell.

And my lower back ached.

Badly.

I’d just read an article about how to tell the difference between labor and false labor.

Something about your lower back aching.

I leaned over to David and said that I might be having contractions.

He raised an eyebrow, like, okay, so what do we do?

We agreed to call the number.

The OBGYN doctor-on-call number.

It was about 11 p.m.

The call-back came pretty quickly.

The doctor heard my explanation and sounded calm and unconcerned. But she suggested that we go get checked out at Strong Hospital, just to be safe.

Just because it was twins.

If it weren’t twins, I wouldn’t think anything about it, she said.

We must have been unconcerned too, because we stopped at Starbucks before going to the hospital.

I guess this was back in the days when they were open late.

David got a latte.

I got a mint tea.

We rolled up to Strong hospital around midnight.

They transferred me from one waiting room to another.

They had me put on a gown and wait on a cot in a curtained-off area.

A resident came to examine me, so young-looking that she could have been one of my college students.

I’ll never forget the expression on her face when she came up from behind the curtain that was draped over my knees.

Horror.

Panic.

Whiteness.

She said, your cervix is completely soft, completely thin, and it’s moved into the birthing position.

And you’re one centimeter dilated.

These babies are either coming right now, or they’re coming very, very soon.

Stay here.

She went to go fetch someone.

David and I looked at each other for grounding.

We knew.

We’ll get through this.

It will be what it will be.

But holy shit.

Should we call someone?

We called his parents.

My parents.

Tears leaked out of his eyes.

He almost never cries.

Someone came back and got me on an IV drip.

At some point, they told me that I wasn’t leaving the hospital, even if they could stop the contractions.

I was moving in until the babies were born.

Welcome to Strong Hospital.

Okay, it is what it is.

But then I realized.

I was teaching five college courses.

There were four weeks left of the spring semester.

I called my mom back and told her to go to my house and get my laptop.

I had to email the Chair of my department.

He would have to find adjuncts to cover all my courses.

He had until Monday to get all five of my classes staffed.

Permanently.

Through the IV, they jacked me up with some kind of rocket fuel, ten-times more potent than caffeine, and somehow, amidst the jittering and writhing, the contractions stopped.

Whew.

They transferred me to a room.

I moved in.

David brought my food.

And my digital food scale.

I told them I was allergic to sugar and flour, and they put a bracelet on my wrist to make it official.

They brought me pancakes for breakfast anyway.

Hospitals are clueless about food.

Thank goodness I had my own.

Nurses visited me.

Doctors visited me.

Friends and family visited me.

One thing was very, very clear.

Keep the babies in your tummy for as long as you can.

Every day counts.

At 23 weeks, babies typically don’t survive.

But let that climb up to 26, 28, or 32 weeks, and the odds are much, much better.

How long is long enough?

When will they be safe?

No one could say for sure.

But they showed me a graph.

It showed survival rates for premature babies born at Strong Hospital over a five-year period.

Then they said, keep in mind that ALIVE doesn’t mean HEALTHY.

If your babies are born alive, there’s a one-third chance they’ll end up healthy, a one-third chance they’ll suffer moderate disabilities, and a one-third chance they’ll suffer severe and profound disabilities.

At that point I was 24 weeks pregnant. I looked at the graph and calculated the conditional probability.

IF Zoe is born alive.

AND she is healthy.

THEN what’s the probability that Alexis will ALSO be born alive.

AND will be healthy.

The conditional probability of having two healthy babies.

The number on the calculator read 4%.

Okay.

It will be what it will be.

I didn’t dare pray.

I pray for everything.

I pray for a parking space.

I pray for peace and sanity around finances, relationships, my time, and my food.

But I wouldn’t pray for two healthy babies.

Odds were, I wouldn’t get them.

And then how would I forgive God for that?

I needed God in my life.

I couldn’t risk estranging myself from God if I didn’t get my way on this.

So I just trusted.

I trusted that I would be okay, no matter what happened.

I suspended myself in a prayerless state, and just hung there.

But pretty soon, I was floating on prayers anyway.

Your prayers.

The prayers of friends, family, 12-steppers, Baha’is, colleagues, neighbors, and whole churches.

Hundreds, maybe thousands of prayers.

Every day.

They made the air sweet.

I felt them.

Always.

They carried me through.

Alexis and Zoe came exactly one week after I checked into Strong Hospital that fateful Friday night.

At 24 weeks and 6 days pregnant, I went into labor again, and this time they couldn’t stop it.

With a vicious emergency C-Section I was plunged into the most discombobulating four months of my life.

Zoe was Baby A. Wrenched out of me at 7:02 p.m.

She weighed one pound, six ounces.

Alexis was Baby B. Lifted out right after her sister at 7:03 p.m.

She weighed one pound, seven ounces.

From that moment, the journey in the NICU was harrowing, like some kind of Tim Burton flick gone awry.

Zoe got infection after infection, life threatening disease after life-threatening disease.

E-coli.

Necrotizing enterocolitis.

A hole in her heart that refused to close.

Meanwhile, Alexis coasted along, just waiting to be released.

I blogged about it every night.

If you want to, you can read my blog here, at CarePages. Just search for AlexisZoe.

Long story short, having twins in the NICU is bizarre.

And no fun.

Having newborn twins home from the NICU, weighing four-pounds-something each, with 16 administrations of medicine to give every day, special formula shipped in from England, and nonstop worrying that one of them might stop breathing for no reason, is no fun either.

I doubt I’ll sort out the emotions of that time in my life until my kids are out of the house.

I’ll have to revisit it later.

Maybe when I’m retired.

My plan is to go back to the NICU as a volunteer “cuddler” and get reacquainted with that world.

For now, I’m busy raising my three healthy daughters.

You see, we hit that 4% jackpot.

Alexis and Zoe are healthy, vibrant little girls.

They’re in first grade now. Almost seven.

They have wiggly teeth.

And two-and-a-half years after they were born, I somehow fell pregnant with Maya.

Our third miracle baby.

There are no words to express my gratitude for the Universe’s largesse on this one.

Just like I felt there was no way to form the intensity of my yearning into a prayer when I was in the hospital, trying to conjure a future with healthy kids, I’m left speechless to formulate what it means to me to have hit this particular jackpot.

It feels like a celebration is in order.

And once again the Universe has lined everything up just right.

This year, we have been asked to be the Ambassador Family for the March of Dimes.

And the March for Babies, their signature event, is happening on Saturday, May 2nd.

May 2nd just happens to be Alexis and Zoe’s 7th birthday.

A birthday party with a thousand guests!

You are invited.

Everyone’s invited.

Saturday, May 2nd, 2015.

Genesee Valley Park in Rochester, New York.

Gather at 9 am, walk at 10 am.

Bounce house, clown, DJ, playground, and all kinds of non-Bright-Line food.

(Be like me. Pack your lunch.)

Won’t you please come?

And in lieu of gifts, won’t you please consider donating to our team? We’re Team Thompson Twins.

You don’t have to come to donate.

I am sincerely asking you. Please donate a few bucks.

All proceeds go toward creating a world in which every baby gets a shot at life.

A chance to hate peas and balk at homework and suffer through that first excruciating broken heart.

I set our team goal at $2,000.

But maybe we could double that.

Whaddya say?

I could say more. I could talk about how the March of Dimes funded the research for surfactant, a drug that accelerated the development of Alexis and Zoe’s little premature lungs, and without which they almost certainly wouldn’t be alive today. I could say that there’s no way to estimate the debt of gratitude I feel for everyone who gave to the March of Dimes in the decades before I ever knew I’d be needing them…people who helped create a world in which Alexis and Zoe could dodge bullet after bullet and now get to live a normal life.

But mostly I just want to say thank you.

For your prayers, your love, and your support.

You know who you are.

Thank you to you, and God, and the Universe.

THANK YOU.

With love,

Susan

P.S. – Johannes Bockwoldt, the videographer who created my 3-part video series on the Psychology and Brain Science of Sustainable Weight Loss (which I’ll be re-releasing in late May, by the way), created the Ambassador Family Video of our family for the March of Dimes this year. It’s under six minutes long. If you want to see pictures of little Alexis and Zoe and hear a bit more of the story, as told by me and David, you should check it out. I think you’ll like it. xoxox

 

 

 

 

 

Comments

  1. Lois Ellefson

    Very touching video. Such a blessing that your daughters are healthy today.

    Reply ·
  2. Shawn Mahshie

    So moving. Thank you Susan. Loving getting to know you more and more via these blog posts and your amazing contributions to the quality of so many lives. We just went through a very similar thing with my neice–luckily the ‘stopped’ labor lasted until 33 weeks; can’t imagine what you went through. I will be very happy to contribute, and who knows–I may just show up in Rochester for the Party! xoxo Shawn

    Reply ·
  3. Venice Burrows

    Thank you for sharing your story! Mine is similar, my son was born at 31 weeks, 3# 11oz.I went into early labor at work (at about 29 weeks), went to the hospital where they kept me 2 nights and gave me something to halt the contractions, then they sent me home for 3 days, until my water broke. After that I spent a week and a half on hospital bed rest until they decided it was time to do a C-Section. We spent 2 months traveling to the NICU (45 min each way) each and every day to hold him and love him and care for him. He’s the best thing that ever happened to us. But I remember those days, and I remember not praying. I felt eerily calm, unwilling to believe that things would go really wrong. It was one of the few times in my life when I felt present in each and every moment because there was nothing about the situation that was in my control. I just had to trust. At the time, everyone marveled at how well I handled everything, when I felt like I was just putting one foot in front of the other and taking life minute by minute. I’m thrilled to say that my son will be turning 3 this weekend and that he is a happy, healthy, and energetic little boy! I won’t be able to make it to the event, but I will donate. Thanks again for sharing your story and for being an ambassador for such a great cause!

    Reply ·
  4. Carrie Mara

    Susan, thank you for sharing this video. It seems that your beautiful, miracle family is well suited for the Ambassador Family role , and I celebrate with you! Your strength, faith and perseverance are inspiring. God bless you and your fam.

    Reply ·
  5. Diane Sontag

    A beautiful video of a beautiful family! I am sure this video will greatly help the fundraising efforts of the March of Dimes.

    Reply ·
  6. Fran Otto

    Thank you so much for sharing your story, Truly God has a plan for you, I have truly been inspired by you.

    Reply ·
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